Open Source Intelligence


What is Open Source Intelligence?

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is a type of threat intelligence that focuses on collecting and analyzing publicly available information from various sources.

This information is accessible to anyone and includes data from websites, social media, news articles, public records, and more.

The goal of OSINT is to gather useful insights and intelligence without requiring access to confidential or classified information.

It is often used by cyber security teams, law enforcement, and competitive intelligence to understand trends, identify threats, and make informed decisions.

How Is Open Source Intelligence Used?

By leveraging OSINT, organizations gain visibility into threats, increase their situational awareness, and are able to make informed decisions based on actionable intelligence. Some of the primary benefits include:

  • Improved Security Posture: OSINT can identify potential cybersecurity threats, such as data breaches, leaked credentials, or vulnerabilities discussed on forums, allowing organizations to mitigate the risk associated with the leaked data.
  • Fraud Detection and Prevention: By monitoring public sources for signs of fraudulent activities, organizations can detect and prevent fraud more effectively.
  • Enhanced Threat Intelligence: OSINT can provide valuable insights into threat actors’ TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures), helping organizations anticipate and defend against attacks.
  • Supply Chain Security: OSINT can be used to monitor the supply chain for potential disruptions, vulnerabilities, leaked data, or general risks, ensuring continuity and security of operations.
  • Market and Competitor Analysis: Organizations can use OSINT to analyze market trends, customer sentiment, and competitor activities, leading to better strategic planning and decision-making.
  • Reputation Management: OSINT can help track mentions of your organization on social media and news outlets, enabling quick responses to negative publicity or misinformation.

Identifying Threats with Open Source Intelligence

To get a little more granular, OSINT can help identify a wide range of cyber threats, including:

1. Credential Stuffing

  • Credential Dumps: Detecting large dumps of usernames and passwords that could be used for credential stuffing attacks.
  • Login Attempts: Monitoring for unusual login attempts and failed login patterns indicative of credential stuffing efforts.

2. Phishing Attacks

  • Phishing Domains: Identifying newly registered or suspicious domains used for phishing attacks.
  • Phishing Emails: Detecting phishing email campaigns by analyzing email headers, body content, and links.
  • Spear Phishing: Recognizing targeted phishing attempts against specific individuals or organizations.

3. Malware and Ransomware

  • Malware Distribution Sites: Finding websites and servers that host malware.
  • Command and Control (C2) Servers: Identifying C2 servers used to control malware and botnets.
  • Ransomware Activity: Monitoring for ransomware strains, ransom notes, and decryptor tools shared on forums and dark web sites.

4. Data Breaches and Leaks

  • Leaked Credentials: Detecting compromised usernames, passwords, and session tokens on paste sites, forums, and dark web marketplaces.
  • Sensitive Data Exposure: Identifying exposed databases, files, and other sensitive information publicly available due to misconfigurations or breaches.

5. Vulnerabilities and Exploits

  • Zero-Day Vulnerabilities: Tracking discussions and reports about zero-day vulnerabilities in forums and exploit databases.
  • Exploit Kits: Identifying exploit kits available for sale or shared on hacker forums that target specific vulnerabilities.
  • Security Advisories: Monitoring security advisories and patches released by vendors and security researchers.

6. Threat Actor Activity

  • Hacker Groups: Profiling and tracking activities of hacker groups and individual threat actors.
  • Attack Campaigns: Detecting coordinated attack campaigns, including their targets, methods, and objectives.
  • Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs): Understanding the TTPs used by different threat actors by analyzing their past activities.

7. Dark Web Activities

8. Network and Infrastructure Threats

  • IP Address Monitoring: Tracking suspicious IP addresses and identifying potential threats from malicious IP ranges.
  • Port Scanning: Detecting unauthorized port scanning activities that may indicate reconnaissance efforts by attackers.

9. Social Engineering Threats

  • Impersonation: Identifying fake social media profiles and websites impersonating legitimate entities.
  • Pretexting: Detecting attempts to gather sensitive information through impersonation or fabricated scenarios.
  • Baiting: Recognizing schemes that trick individuals to download malware or disclose information.

10. Insider Threats

  • Employee Discontent: Monitoring social media and forums for signs of disgruntled employees who might pose an insider threat.
  • Data Exfiltration: Identifying potential data exfiltration activities by employees through unusual network behavior or public disclosures.

11. Supply Chain Threats

  • Third-Party Risks: Identifying vulnerabilities and breaches within third-party vendors and suppliers that could impact the organization.
  • Software Supply Chain: Monitoring for compromised software updates and malicious code injected into legitimate software packages.

12. Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)

  • Nation-State Actors: Profiling and tracking activities of nation-state actors known for conducting APTs.
  • Long-Term Campaigns: Identifying long-term infiltration and espionage activities aimed at stealing sensitive information or disrupting operations.

13. DDoS Attacks

  • Botnet Activity: Tracking botnet activity and identifying IP addresses associated with known DDoS botnets.
  • Attack Announcements: Monitoring forums and dark web sites where attackers might announce upcoming DDoS attacks.

Common OSINT techniques

Here are some common techniques used to find and collect Open Source Intelligence:

1. Data Leak Detection

  • Breach Databases: Monitoring databases of leaked credentials and personal information to identify compromised data.
  • Paste Sites and Forums: Scraping pastebin sites and hacker forums for leaked information and data dumps.
  • Dark Web Marketplaces: Tracking dark web marketplaces for the sale of stolen data and credentials.

2. Certificate Transparency (CT) Logs

  • Domain Monitoring: Tracking CT logs to identify newly issued SSL/TLS certificates that could indicate potential phishing sites or domain spoofing.
  • Certificate Analysis: Analyzing CT logs to detect suspicious certificate issuance and misconfiguration.

3. Dark Web Monitoring

  • Tor and I2P Networks: Navigating dark web networks to access forums, marketplaces, and communication channels.
  • Specialized Tools: Using tools designed to scrape and analyze dark web content for illicit activities and threat intelligence.

4. DNS and Domain Investigations

  • WHOIS Lookup: Performing WHOIS lookups to gather information about domain registration details and ownership.
  • DNS Records: Analyzing DNS records, including MX, A, and TXT records, to gain insights into an organization’s domain infrastructure.
  • Reverse DNS Lookup: Identifying domains associated with specific IP addresses.

5. Web Scraping

  • Automated Data Collection: Using tools and scripts to extract data from websites, forums, and social media platforms.
  • Web Crawlers: Deploying web crawlers to systematically browse the web and collect information from multiple pages and sites.

6. Search Engines

  • Boolean Operators: Using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to refine search results and combine multiple search terms.
  • Search Operators: Leveraging search operators like “site:”, “intitle:”, “filetype:”, and “inurl:” to narrow down search results and find specific information.
  • Google Dorking: Employing Google Dorks (advanced search operators) to uncover hidden or sensitive information.

7. Social Media Monitoring

  • Profile Analysis: Examining social media profiles for personal information, connections, and activity patterns.
  • Hashtag and Keyword Monitoring: Tracking specific hashtags, keywords, and trending topics to gather real-time information.
  • Geolocation Tracking: Using geotagged posts and images to identify locations and movements of individuals or events.

8. News Sources

  • News Aggregators: Using news aggregator tools to collect articles from various sources and identify trends or emerging threats.
  • RSS Feeds: Subscribing to RSS feeds from reputable news sites to stay updated on relevant news and developments.
  • Archived Content: Accessing cached and archived versions of news articles through services like the Wayback Machine to view historical data.

9. Public Records

  • Government Databases: Accessing publicly available databases for open-source information on businesses, individuals, patents, trademarks, and regulatory filings.
  • Company Filings: Reviewing financial statements, annual reports, and other filings submitted to regulatory bodies like the SEC.
  • Court Records: Searching court records for legal proceedings and decisions that may impact individuals or organizations.